The recent hepatitis A outbreak at a McDonalds in Milan, Illinois, has claimed at least 26 victims, and has caused the local health departments to innoculate 5,366 people, hopefully catching these folks in the modest window of time to prevent an infected person from becoming ill.  This raises a number of questions that we plan to find answers to.  

First, at what cost does this innoculation program come to the affected counties?  Not good timing, likely, considering the budgeting woes around the country.  Second, how many people are "out of the woods"–i.e., people who were infected at McDonalds, but who received their innoculations in time to prevent the onset of symptoms.  And finally, perhaps most importantly, what is the real human toll of this outbreak.  

As is the case with an illness caused by any bacteria or virus, colloquially called "food poisoning," many people pass off even hepatitis A as some diarrhea, some vomiting, maybe a little jaundice too, and the victim recovers.  True for some, but those would be the lucky ones . . . the exceptions to the rule.  More typically, hepatitis A causes weeks, if not months, of symptoms.  Ask anybody who has been unlucky enough to fall victim.  The fatigue is debilitating.  The illness (vomiting, nausea, etc.) is sometimes so extreme for so long that people miss enough work to lose their jobs.  And the jaundice that typically signifies that "youre on the mend" sometimes causes such embarrasment that victims won’t go out in public.  

But that’s just the "typical" hepatitis A illness.  We have represented many people who have had not-so-typical illnesses.  Here is a brief medical synopsis of how the virus can cause catastrophic liver failure (fulminant hepatitis), requiring liver transplantation for survival, or potentially causing death.

Fulminant hepatitis kills nearly 100 people each year in the United States. Among reported cases for all ages, the fatality rate is approximately 0.3%. This figure, however, increases with age. For sufferers of fulminant hepatitis over 40 years old, the fatality rate is approximately 2%.  

Continue Reading Foodborne Hepatitis and Catastrophic Liver Failure